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Pantheon Example Terminus Auto Update Script

Repository Archived 2019-06-13

This repository was archived on the 26th of June 2019. It remains as a reference implementation but is no longer used or maintained. The sites previously updated by this script have been migrated to StagingPilot.


Scalable automated testing and deployment of upstream (core), plugin and theme updates on Pantheon sites. This repository uses these open source tools:

  • Terminus for interacting with Pantheon on the command line
  • CircleCI for running jobs in the cloud
  • WP-CLI for interacting with WordPress on the command line
  • Drush for interacting with Drupal on the command line
  • Behat for integration and acceptance testing
  • WordHat for WordPress-specific functionality for common testing scenarios in Behat
  • Google Lighthouse for performance testing
  • BackstopJS for visual regression testing
  • Slack for communication


While this script has worked well for us your mileage may vary. This repository is a proof of concept example of advanced Pantheon platform usage and is provided without warranty or direct support.

Issues and questions may be filed in GitHub but their resolution is not guaranteed.

The Process

This script will loop through all sites in sites-to-auto-update.json and:

  1. Authenticate with Terminus via machine token
  2. Delete the multidev environment auto-update
  3. Recreate the multidev environment auto-update
    • Deletion and recreation is done to clear any existing changes and pull the latest database/files from the live environment
    • This is opt-out per site and should only be disabled if using Solr or multidev creation takes an excessively long time due to large file and database sizes
  4. Switch the multidev environment auto-update to git mode
  5. Check for and apply Pantheon upstream updates
    • WordPress or Drupal core updates are managed in the default upstream
    • Custom upstream updates will be applied if using a custom upstream
  6. Switch the multidev environment auto-update to SFTP mode
  7. Check for and apply WordPress plugin or Drupal module updates, if available
  8. Check for and apply WordPress theme updates, if available
    • If no updates are available the script will stop here
  9. Run a visual regression test between the live environment and the multidev environment
    • If the visual regression test fails the script will stop here and post a link to the visual regression report in Slack
  10. Merge the multidev environment with the dev environment
  11. Deploy the dev environment to the test environment
  12. Create a backup of the test environment
    • This is opt-out per site and should only be disabled if backups take an excessively long time due to large file and database sizes and you have regularly backups scheduled via another method.
  13. Create a backup of the live environment
    • This is opt-out per site and should only be disabled if backups take an excessively long time due to large file and database sizes and you have regularly backups scheduled via another method.
  14. Deploy the test environment to the live environment
  15. Post a success message to Slack
    • Test failures will also be reported to Slack


  1. Create a new GitHub repository
  2. Don't fork this repository, instead clone it and change the remote URL to the GitHub repository above and push the code there
  3. Update backstop.template.json to meet your needs
    • For example, you may want to tweak things like viewport
  4. Create a CircleCI project
    • It should be linked to your GitHub repository
  5. Add environment variables to CircleCI for the following:
    • MULTIDEV: The multidev name to use for applying/testing updates. Defaults to auto-update
    • CIRCLE_TOKEN: A CircleCI API token with access to the CircleCI project created above.
    • TERMINUS_MACHINE_TOKEN: A Pantheon Terminus machine token with access to all the sites you plan to update.
    • SLACK_HOOK_URL: The Slack incoming webhook URL
    • SLACK_CHANNEL: The Slack channel to post notifications to
    • SLACK_USERNAME: The username to post to Slack with
  6. Add an SSH key to Pantheon and to the CircleCI project
  7. Edit sites-to-auto-update.json and set the following key for each JSON object for sites you wish to auto update. The order is important do not change the order of the keys in the object or skip keys.
    • SITE_UUID: The site UUID, which can be acquired with terminus site:list or is in the dashboard URL for the site.
    • SITE_NAME: The site machine name, which can be acquired with terminus site:list.
    • CREATE_BACKUPS: 0 or 1 to determine if a backup of the site is made before deployment. You may want to disable backups for sites where a backup takes an excessively long time due to large file and database sizes and you have regularly backups scheduled via another method.
    • RECREATE_MULTIDEV: 0 or 1 to determine if the multidev is deleted and recreated with each run.
    • LIVE_URL: The preferred custom domain (full URL) for the live environment to use in automated testing or set to 0 to use the default Pantheon hosted URL,

Know Limitations

  • Backups of sites with large a large database or media files are taking too long and timing out on Circle CI
  • Sites with a Solr Index fail visual regression tests as the multidev created doesn't have items indexed in Solr
  • backstop-crawl on sites with many (~100+) URLs are taking too long and timing out on Circle CI.
    • This can be alleviated with a custom SITE_NAME.backstop.json or SITE_NAME.backstop-config.js file.
  • If automated testing fails and RECREATE_MULTIDEV is set to 0 then a multidev with updates applied will persist causing subsequent update checks to return no updates and prevent automated tests from running again. This cycle will break when there are further updates released to be applied.
  • Composer managed sites are not supported. For Composer managed sites a service like, which will create pull requests for Composer updates, is useful.

Configuring Backstop JS

backstop.template.json is used as a generic template for backstop-crawl when creating backstop.json files dynamically.

For each site a custom template in the form of SITE_NAME.backstop.json or SITE_NAME.backstop-config.js, where SITE_NAME is the machine name for the Pantheon site, can be also be created and will take precedence over the template above. The former is a hard coded Backstop JS file and the latter is a JavaScript file that must export valid JSON contents of a Backstop JS file.

The custom templates above are most useful for sites with many URLs where a crawl will timeout. In this case manually specifying which URLs to test is needed.

Behat Tests

Behat testing is currently only supported for WordPress sites. To have Behat tests run for a site create Behat feature files in the directory tests/behat/<site-name>/features, replacing <site-name> with the Pantheon site machine name.


This workflow assumes that the Dev and Test environments on Pantheon are always in a shippable state as the script will automatically deploy changes from Dev to Test and Live if the visual regression tests of updates pass.

All work that isn't ready for deployment to production should be kept in a Pantheon multidev environment, on a separate git branch.

Scalability relies on the number of CircleCI workers available. If workers are available to process jobs in parallel this script will scale very well.



  • Initial beta release




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